On Aug. 30, 2015, midfielder Sarah Troccoli started her first collegiate game against a Florida State squad defending its national championship. Thanks in part to a Troccoli assist, Florida found itself up 1-0 and looking to add to its lead.
About three minutes after the initial goal, Troccoli found herself on the receiving end of a corner kick. Troccoli stands 5-foot-11, which made her the second-tallest Gator not playing goalie at the time. Her height gave her an edge as she headed the ball into the far corner of the net, doubling Florida’s lead and contributing to the eventual 3-2 win.
“It seems like so long ago,” Troccoli said on Tuesday. “It was really cool, obviously, because I was a freshman and it was my first time playing FSU.”
On Thursday, the No. 10 Gators (11-2-0, 5-1 SEC) look to win their third consecutive match against the No. 16 Seminoles (9-3-0, 4-2 ACC) at 6 p.m. in James G. Pressly Stadium. Last year’s game was canceled amid concerns regarding Hurricane Hermine’s impact on Tallahassee. This year, Hurricane Irma posed the risk of a second straight year without the rivalry.
In 2014, a Florida win broke FSU’s three-game winning streak in the series. It would be the Seminoles’ only defeat on their way to a 23-1-1 record and until the next time to two sides met.
The 2015 match featured four Gators who started and five who subbed in that will compete against the Seminoles on Thursday. Five combined goals and 11 assists this season have come from those Gators with in-game experience against FSU.
Coach Becky Burleigh said she believes rescheduling the game was in everybody’s best interests, and that the game would be a chance to be exposed to a style of play different from other SEC squads.
“I think both teams really appreciate getting this game back on the schedule,” Burleigh said. “It’s just a quality game.”
It’s been an blossoming rivalry between the two teams. The annual series is only 22 years old, having started when UF kicked off its inaugural season in 1995. The No. 10 Gators lead the series 13-10, having played FSU twice in 2000 and again in 2003. On both occasions, the Gators were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by FSU in Gainesville.
Rachelle Smith, one of the five Gator substitutes to come on during the 2015 matchup, said no matter which year it is, the UF-FSU game will always be a little different than the previous one.
“I think I’ve grown since then, and I think we’re able to handle it more,” Smith said. “But it’s going to be exactly the same way: high press, definitely a real good game to watch.”
Smith, a junior defender, is part of a Florida back line which has allowed just 10 shots on goal in its previous three games. That defense will be tested against FSU, which has put up 15 shots on goal in its previous three games and is coming off a 2-0 loss to Duke.
“We’re going to be challenged a lot, don’t get me wrong,” Smith said, “but I think we can do it.”
Troccoli, now the tallest Gator outside of goal, said she’s ready to rekindle the rivalry.
“Right now, I think it’s kind of weird since we haven’t played them since my freshman year,” Troccoli said. “But I think we’re all excited for it.”
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at [email protected].